The situation in Syria is tragic, but the small Christian community in the region is sharing God’s love with thousands of refugees.
So says Nabil Costa, the executive director of the Lebanese Baptist Society (LSESD) and a BMS World Mission trustee.
Costa was in the United Kingdom last week as a guest of the charity, Embrace the Middle East.
The civil war has seen more than 1.2 million Syrian refugees flee to Lebanon, Costa said, in addition to the 300,000 Palestinian and another 100,000 Iraqi refugees who have sought refuge there.
Though Lebanon cannot really handle this influx – its population is only 4 million, and “our infrastructure is not up to date,” said Costa – Baptists are playing their part.
They are reaching 25,000 Syrian refugees with a mix of food, medicine and shelter, said Costa, and providing education to 150 children. Baptist partners in Jordan are responding in similar ways.
“We cannot deal with everything, but this should not stop the church helping as much as we can,” said Costa. “The role of the church is to help those in need.”
The focus on the refugees comes in spite of something of a fractious past. Lebanon experienced Syrian occupation until 2005; there was Syrian involvement in the Lebanese civil war between 1975 and 1990.
“Regardless of our history together, now it is the time to practice our true Christianity,” said Costa. “It is our duty to serve them. So what God gives to us, we are sharing. And the more we share, the more God gives.”
“We are finding that people are surprised when we help. They don’t know the church has this role. They ask, ‘Why are you helping us?’ and we are spreading a Christian message about love and sacrifice. They are seeing this message,” Costa said.
Costa praised the excellent support given to LSESD by both BMS and Embrace the Middle East. “You don’t see these stories. It’s all bad stories. But in spite of the bad stories, good is happening and God is working.”
Costa was the keynote speaker at the Embrace the Middle East’s annual service on Oct. 12 and addressed churches throughout last week, including Newton Mears Baptist Church in Glasgow on Oct. 19. He also met with the Bishop of Coventry, Christopher Cocksworth, a member of the House of Lords, on Oct. 16.
“We in the West are becoming comfortably numb about the terrible humanitarian crisis in Syria, so Nabil’s visit to the U.K. is timely,” said Jeremy Moodey, chief executive of Embrace the Middle East.
“Embrace has already sent 300,000 pounds (more than $485,000) to support work with refugees and displaced persons, but the need is enormous and getting worse. What is amazing is to see God at work in such a dire situation,” Moodey said.
A version of this article first appeared in The Baptist Times of Great Britain and is used with permission.
Editor’s note: You can view Nabil Costa discussing Baptists in Lebanon at the BWA 2013 here.